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famous epistles, was sufficient to convince every unbiassed reader, that blighted ambition and deep resentment alone gave them birth. The ascription of them, therefore, to some member of the Rockingham party, was extremely natural; and upon whom, could the suspicion of being JuNIUS fall with so much weight of probability as on BURKE? His abilities were undoubted, his address in varying his style to suit the object he had in view was well known, his habit of writing anonynously in periodical works was no secret, and that the disappointment which he had experienced, should have soured his temper against those by whom it was occasioned, was perfectly reasonable. On all these accounts and some others, little less plausible, many scrupled not to aver that the letters of JUNIUS came from the pen of BURKE, and we know that even the acute and penetrating mind of Johnson, actually hung in suspense upon the point, until BURKE himself spontaneously disavowed them with some degree of warmth. Notwithstanding this, such is the obstinacy of credulity, attempts have been repeatedly made to establish the charge, though the persons thus uselessly employed, had no more light to throw upon the subject, than their predecessors in this idle inquiry. That BURKE was not the author of the letters, we ought to believe upon his own authority; but if that be not deemed sufficient, there is internal evidence, more than abundant to satisfy every unbiassed observer, that JUNIUS must be sought for in some other quarter.
In 1769, Mr. BURKE published, without his name, which as we have already observed was his usual practice, an elaborate reply to a pamphlet written by Mr. George Grenville, entitled "The Present State of the Nation." That gentleman drew a dismal picture of the finances of this country, and as extravagant a one of the resources of France, with a view of justifying his own measures, when in office, particularly in regard to America, and of depreciating those of the succeeding administrations.
Mr.BURKE's reply, therefore, was rather a defence of his own party, than an attack upon others; though in the treatment of his subject, which he managed with consummate ability, he overwhelmed the hostile ranks to which he was opposed, by
an exuberance of wit and an irresistible body of closely connected arguments.
Soon after this, came out a pamphlet, intituled "Thoughts on the Cause of the present Discontents," in which Mr. BURKE attempted to show, that for several years there had existed a design to establish a double cabinet, one interior, and the other exterior; the former consisting of a secret cabal behind the throne, and the latter a servile set of ministers, subservient to their councils and disposable at their pleasure. To this cause were boldly ascribed the frequent changes that had taken place, and the consequent distractions which prevailed throughout the empire.
There was, however, more rhetoric than truth in this statement, but the writer's aim was to urge the combination of an open aristocracy of power, property, and talents, on popular principles, as a check upon the crown. This plan was nothing more, indeed, than a recurrence to the old system of governing the national councils by the weight of party, which, in the estimation of many good friends to the constitutional liberty, was to the full, as objec tionable as that of pretended favouritism.
Though this performance of Mr. Burke beautifully fascinating as a composition, it is now read only as an elegant declamation, founded upon a visionary basis, and calculated to serve the purposes of a political junto, who were exasperated by the loss of place, and wished to make the world believe, that the disgrace they had suffered arose from the machinations of a secret faction behind the throne.
Mr. BURKE, however, lived long enough to see and acknowledge that the cause to which he had ascribed the public discontents, was the mere creature of the imagination; and that no such private council as the one described by him ever had an existence. The great earl of Chatham often made the same declaration, though he too, for political reasons, at one period gave countenance to the current report.
About the time when Mr. BURKE'S pamphlet came out, the duke of Grafton, unable to resist the combination of talent that was made against his administration, retired from office, and was succeeded by lord North, whose measures gave as little satisfaction as those of his predecessor. Notwithstanding this, that nobleman continued to hold the helm for several years, amidst a conflict of the most tremendous
magnitude. As BURKE was the most powerful of his assailants, so the brightest of his speeches were those which he delivered in the house of commons, on the disputes with América. He ridiculed lord North for his propositions of conciliation, and attacked him with unwearied ardour for pursuing a contest founded on the very right, which had been asserted in the de claratory act of lord Rockingham's administration, and of which there can be no doubt that Mr. BURKE was himself the author. Much, therefore, as we may admit the brilliant genius of this eloquent, and accomplished statesman, truth compels the admission that he was here, as in some other cases, palpably inconsis
It has often excited surprise, how a minister, of the easy and indolent temper of lord North, could stem the torrent which ran impetuously against him for so long a period. Mr. BURKE, once partly answered this question, by saying, on leaving the house after a loud and stormy debate, in which the minister preserved his equanimity and humour to the last, "Well, there's no denying it, gentlemen, this man has certainly more wit and good nature in him, than all of us put together."
At the close of the year 1772, Mr. BURKE visited the French capital, where he was introduced to most of the men of letters, and some of the highest persons in the church and state, who all vied with each other in showing their respects to the talents of the illustrious stranger. During his stay at Paris, this acute observer who made human nature his study, could not help seeing that an extensive confederacy was going on against religion, and he knew that if it succeeded, the most fearful consequences would result to the injury of society. On his return home, he revolved the subject in his mind, and the more he considered it, the more alarmed were his fears; on which account he took an opportunity of pointing out the progress of Atheism to his countrymen, and particularly the government, as a matter calling for the most vigilant watchfulness. Mr. BURKE in addressing the house, observed, that he was not over-fond of calling in the aid of the secular arm, to suppress doc trines and opinions; but he thought that if ever it were to be raised, it should be against those enemies of their kind, who would take from man the noblest prero
gative of his nature, that of being a religious animal.
It is somewhat remarkable, that Dr. Priestley made a similar observation on the state of France; for when he was there about the same time with Mr. BURKE, the members of the Academy of Sciences to whom he was introduced, wondered how a man of his free sentiments could believe in a Deity.
Having mentioned Priestley, it may be proper to remark, that he and BURKE were at this time on terms of intimacy, having contracted an acquaintance at the table of lord Shelburne with whom the doctor then lived as an amanuensis. The following anecdote, related by the doctor is worth inserting in this place.-"On the morning of the day, January 29, 1774, when the cause of Dr. Franklin was to be heard before the privy council, in regard to the complaints of the province of Massachusetts against their governor, I met Mr. BURKE in Parliament Street, accom-' panied by Dr. Douglas, afterwards bishop of Salisbury. After introducing us to each other as men of letters, he asked me whither I was going? I said I could tell him whither I wished to go. He then asked me where that was, I said to the privy council, but that I was afraid I could not get admission. He then desired me to go along with him. Accordingly I did; but when we got to the anti-room, we found it quite filled with persons as desirous of getting admission as ourselves. Seeing this, I said, we should never get through the crowd. He said, 'Give me your arm;' and locking it fast in his, he soon made his way to the door of the privy council. I then said, 'Mr. BURKE you are an excellent leader.' He replied, 'I wish other persons thought so too. After waiting a short time, the door of the privy council opened, and we entered the first, when Mr. BURKE took his stand behind the first chair next to the president, and I behind that the next to his." What follows is a narrative of the proceedings, and no way relative to the subject of this memoir.
At the close of the session of parliament this year, a dissolution took place, in which Mr. BURKE, who had hitherto sat for Wendover, was now proposed to the freemen of Malton, in Yorkshire, upon the interest of the marquis of Rockingham. The election had but just finish
ed when a deputation of merchants came from Bristol to invite Mr. BURKE to become a candidate for the representation of that opulent city. This was an unexpected offer, but one that was too honorable and important to be slighted.
Courtesy, however, required an attention to forms, and Mr. BURKE went to consult his friends, who were then sat down to dinner, upon the line of conduct he should pursue. There was but one opinion on the matter, for all present were attached to lord Rockingham, and the present was an opportunity of strengthening the common cause in which they were all concerned. Accordingly a compliance with the Whigs of Bristol was unanimously recommended, and Mr. BURKE, after taking a short repast, threw himself into a post chaise, and travelling night and day, reached the place of his destination on the 13th of October, which was the sixth day of the poll. The candidates were lord Clare, (afterwards earl Nugent) and Mr. Brickdale on the Tory or High Church interest, and Mr. Cruger and Mr. BURKE supported by the dissenters who then formed, as they ever have done, a commanding influence in the corporation and representation of that great city. The contest on this occasion was unusually severe, but it terminated after a scrutiny, in the complete triumph of the popular candidates.
Mr. BURKE's speeches to the electors were very much and deservedly admired, so, that though he was the second in the return, he entirely eclipsed his colleague. Cruger was an American merchant, who by running away with the daughter of an eminent banker, had acquired considerable property at Bristol, which with his being a native of New York, procured him an interest that he was far from being entitled to, either on the score of principle or of ability. Of the extent of his talent he gave a curious specimen, when after an eloquent harangue made on the Exchange, by his associate, finding that a speech was called for from himself, he said, "Gentlemen, I say ditto to Mr. BURKE, again I say, ditto." This was at the beginning of the election, but at the close of it he was somewhat better prepared, and told his constituents that their will should be his rule, and that in all things he should vote according to their directions. This slavish principle Mr.
BURKE, when it came to his turn to speak, manfully refused to admit, and for so doing he assigned reasons, which the writer of this sketch happens to know, carried conviction home to many of his hearers, though they were before of a different opinion. The substance of his argument was this: "Government and legislation are matters of reason and judg ment, and not of inclination; but what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion, in which one set of men deliberate and another decide? and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments? Parliament" said Mr. BURKE, "is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole."
To this sound, constitutional doctrine, Mr. BURKE invariably adhered through the whole of his parliamentary history, though some perhaps will be inclined to think that in submitting to be a partizan he deviated nearly as much on the other hand from the true principle of patriotism, which ought to distinguish all the members of a national council. It is a question not easily answered, whether the man who enlists in the trammels of a party, has more claim to public respect, than he who takes the dictum of his constituents for the absolute rule of his conduct. Certain it is, however, that though the one has more scope for the display of his powers than the other, it is with an ill grace he professes to be independent, while to use the language of Goldsmith concerning his friend BURKE, "He gives up to party what
was meant for mankind."
One of the first acts of this great man after taking his seat in the ensuing sessions, was to bring forward a plan of conciliation with America; the basis of which was a renunciation of the right of parliament, to lay a tax upon the colonies, and allowing to the provincial assemblies the privilege of making such grants as should suit their respective circumstances. This scheme, feasible as it might appear to the
projector and his friends, failed, however, to make an impression upon the house, and therefore all the propositions founded upon it, were rejected by a great majority. When, in the course of the same session, the measure of introducing German troops was adopted without the consent of parliament, Mr. BURKE lifted up his voice with powerful eloquence against the unconstitutional proceeding, and in answer to Wedderburne, the solicitor general, who defended it in an elaborate speech, which he concluded by moving the previous question; he observed, that the learned gentleman had ransacked history, statutes and journals, and had taken a very long journey, as was usual with him, through which he did not wish to follow him, but he was always glad to meet him on his return home. "Let us" said BURKE, "strip off this learned foliage entirely from his argument; let us unswathe this Egyptian corpse, and bereave it of its salt, gum, and mummy, and see what sort of a dry skeleton it is underneath-nothing but a precedent! The gentleman asserts, that a bill only can declare the consent of parliament-not an address-not a resolution of the house; yet he thinks that a resolution of the house would, in this case, be better than a bill of indemnity: so that we find a bill is nothing, a resolution is nothing-nay, I fear our liberty is nothing: and that ere long, our rights, freedom, and spirit, nay this house itself will vanish, in a previous question."
After opposing-in vain, the measures taken by government for the subjugation of the colonies, Mr. BURKE began to relax in his efforts, and even to be less regular in his attendance in the house; in justification of which conduct, and at the same time to express his entire sense of the question then at issue, he wrote at the beginning of 1777, a letter to the sheriffs of Bristol, which was soon afterwards printed with the consent, and most probably at the desire of the author. Hitherto perfect harmony had subsisted between him and his constituents, but within a short time after this, a serious difference arose, which instead of being healed, became wider by the attempts made at explanation. The first occasion of dislike given by BURKE to the citizens of Bristol, was his voting in favour of the act for extending the Irish trade. Such was the narrow spirit of the English merchants, but
particularly those of Bristol, that they set every engine at work to prevent a mea sure, which was called for by the exigency of the times, as much as by the principle of natural justice. BURKE was instructed by the electors of Bristol to oppose the bill, but he had the manliness to venture upon risking their displeasure, rather than pursue, out of mere policy, a line of conduct which his conscience disapproved. He wrote two letters on the subject, one to the heads of a private commercial house, and the other to the master of the company of merchant adventurers, in both which he laid down the most solid maxims of trade, and advanced the most satisfactory reasons in support of the legislative grant, which they reprobated.
These arguments, however, were thrown away upon minds that viewed every object through the discoloured medium of prejudice and self-interest. Two other steps of Mr. BURKE, which while they did him honour, gave great offence to the good people of Bristol; where the part he took in regard to lord Beauchamp's bill for the Relief of Debtors, and his vigorous support of sir George Savile's act in behalf of the Roman Catholics. This last mea sure, though nothing more than what had been long called for by every principle of humanity, policy, and right, produced in England and Scotland, that shameful combination of sectarian bigotry, which, under the specious name of the Protestant Association, brought an indelible stain upon the country, in the riots of the year 1780. Just before the occurrence of those dreadful outrages, Mr. BURKE brought forward, and carried his motion for leave to bring in a bill "For the better regulation of his majesty's civil establishments, and of certain public offices; for the limitation of pensions, and the suppression of sundry useless, expensive, and inconvenient places, and for applying the monies saved thereby for the public service."
But though successful in this popular object, it had not the effect of securing his return for Bristol at the election which took place in the same year. On his arrival in that city after the dissolution of parliament, he found an opposition raised against him, which, neither the power of hís eloquence nor the interest of his friends could overcome. The speech of Mr. BURKE on the hustings, in vindication of
his parliamentary conduct, was indeed a masterly piece of declamation, but it made so little impression upon the hearers, that after a short struggle he deemed it prudent to retire from the contest. A scat, however, was already provided for him by his great patron, and Malton, which he had originally quitted for Bristol, now returned him without any difficulty. It merits observation in this place, that notwithstanding the rejection of Mr. BURKE by the electors, the corporate body of Bris tol, for the most part, adhered inflexibly to him, and of this attachment they gave a striking proof not long afterwards, in choosing his brother Richard to be their Recorder on the death of Dunning, lord Ashburton.
The American War, after seven years unsuccessful struggle, was now drawing to that point which many sagacious persons had foreseen and predicted.
On the 27th of February, 1782, gene ral Conway moved in the commons, a resolution "That it is the opinion of this house, that a further continuance of an offensive war in America, for the purpose of subduing by force, the revolted colonies, is totally impracticable, inasmuch as it weakens that force which we ought to employ against our European enemies, and which is contrary to his majesty's declaration in his most gracious speech from the throne, where he expresses a wish to restore peace and tranquillity." This resolution, after a long and warm debate, was carried by a majority of two hundred and thirty-four, against two hundred and fifteen; and the next day, Mr. BURKE communicated the intelligence to Dr. Franklin, who had a little before requested his interest in negociating the exchange of Mr. Henry Laurens, then in the Tower, for general Burgoyne, who had been taken prisoner at Saratoga. In answer to the doctor, then at Paris, Mr. BURKE wrote the following letter:
America, I trust, as not the enemy of. England, I am sure, as the friend of mankind, on the resolution of the house of commons, carried by a majority of nine teen at two o'clock this morning, in a very full house. It was the declaration of two hundred and thirty-four; I think it was the opinion of the whole. I trust it will lead to a speedy peace between the two branches of the English nation, perhaps to a general peace; and that our happiness may be an introduction to that of the world at large. I most sincerely congratulate you on the event. I wish I could say, that I had accomplished my commission. Difficulties remain. But as Mr. Laurens is released from his confinement, and has recovered his health tolerably, he may wait, I hope, without a great deal of inconvenience, for the final adjustment of his troublesome business. He is an exceedingly agreeable and honourable man. I am much obliged to you for the honour of his acquaintance. He speaks of you as I do, and is perfectly sensible. of your warm and friendly interposition in his favour.
"I have the honour to he,
Your most faithful and
obedient humble servant,
"London, Charles Street,
Feb. 28, 1782.
"General Burgoyne presents his best compliments to you with his thanks for your obliging attentions towards him."
Encouraged by the advantage which they had gained in carrying this resolution, the opposition renewed their attacks upon the ministry with such vigour, that on the 20th of March, lord North announced his own resignation, and that of his colleagues in the presence of an exceedingly full house. During the adjournment which followed this notification, the marquis of Rockingham was intrusted with the arrangement of a new administration, in which Mr. BURKE took his part as pay-master of the forces, with a seat in the privy council.
The first measure that occupied the attention of parliament after the recess, was the passing of an act in favour of Ire land, which was followed by a bill to dis